Despite bad weather conditions the “Civil Dialogue Among Opposing Views” still took place last week.
Donna Red Wing and Bob Vander Plaats were able to be present via Skype in.
The event focused on how to have constructive dialogue with people of opposing views.
Red Wing, a longtime activist for equality and justice for the LGBT community and Vander Plaats, president and CEO of The Family Leadership are friends.
The two developed a strong friendship despite their viewpoints. They learned they shared a common concern about child trafficking in Iowa and immigration.
Red Wing and Vander Plaats also said they had a strong passion for civil dialogue.
Red Wing and Vander Plaats explained how civil discussion is possible among those who disagree.
“Leadership is willing to have a tough conversation,” Vander Plaats said.
When the dialogue was open to questions, past Wartburg president Dr. William Hamm asked how people are able to find humanity in people who may not have the same views as they do.
Red Wing said she did not know if it was possible and Vander Plaats added it is hard to have a trustworthy conversation with people you cannot trust.
“How do you go about creating safe environments for these conversations so they don’t become destructive?” another person asked during the panel.
Red Wing explained how when she and Vander Plaats first met they chose a public place to meet and were prepared for anything to happen.
“After the first time we met, we knew there would be others,” Red Wing said.
“Let’s call ourselves to a higher standard, be willing to have disbeliefs, but do it in a civil way to honor the other person,” Vander Plaats encouraged the attendees.
The program was hosted by Emily Laudner who expressed concern about discourse last semester after the elections.
“Despite the weather, I think it went well and they did a good job in addressing how they met and how they found common ground,” Laudner said.
Laudner said she wished more people would have attended, as her goal was to break down barriers and get rid of hate.
“Even though we have disagreement on things, we have developed a very strong friendship,” Vander Plaats said.
“I genuinely love Donna, I would take a bullet for her. When you can disagree without being disagreeable you can have civil dialogue.
“Then you can find out who a person is. I am not going to hate Bob and I am not going to cut him out of my life because we disagree on some very profound things,” Red Wing said.
Hamm said seeing two people who were tired of hate in the country joining forces for something they care about was interesting.He said the two overcoming their opposing viewpoints was inspiring to him and hopes it did the same for others.
“Over time, they have become friends while still having serious disagreements. It’s a model we all can learn from, I think. I found it fascinating,” Hamm said.